Albany, NY – The memories came flooding back for two young men, formerly LaSalle youths, when they were reunited at LaSalle this past week. Terrell and Shawn remembered how they felt when they first came to LaSalle, how being roommates helped them to grow, their feelings about leaving LaSalle after graduating from the agency’s high school and how their time here contributed to the success they are now realizing.
“I came to LaSalle on my fifteenth birthday,” Terrell said. “I could never forget that.” Shawn was nearly 13 years old when he came to LaSalle. Both graduates of LaSalle’s high school, they were roommates during their entire time at the agency. Lastly, in LaSalle’s independent living program.
“When I first got here, I was scared,” Terrell said. “I didn’t know anybody, I knew I was in the State Capitol, though. It took me a while to open up and I wouldn’t talk unless someone talked to me first. I was nervous.” Shawn’s memories of when he walked through LaSalle’s doors for the first time were similar. He said, “My biggest thing was behavior,” said Shawn. “Back then, I thought my parents put me here because they didn’t like me. I was nervous, sad, angry. But things started to change when we got into a routine,” Shawn said. “LaSalle taught me to learn new ways to behave.” Terrell readily agreed.
To Shawn, Terrell was a terrific roommate. “He stuck to his side of the room, I stuck to my side of the room. He stayed with his stuff. He didn’t mess with my stuff. He was the best roommate I ever had!” Shawn said. “I remember he [Terrell] had this thing about shoes. He had tons of shoes!!
They both worked in the kitchen at Daughters of Sarah Nursing Home and were trained to take instruction and learned strong work ethics. “Do you remember Passover? Doing the dishes?,” Shawn asked Terrell. “There was a meat side and a dairy side, and you had to run from one side to the other. There were probably a thousand of these little dishes you had to move!! Then you had to clean the Gefilte fish. That stuff smelled so bad!!”
When it came to the end of their placements, they were both excited to be going their own way, starting new journeys for themselves. But both had reservations leaving one another and the staff who had helped them so much.
Shawn remarked that Terrell did better in LaSalle’s program than he did. “I was hard headed,” Shawn said. “Do you remember how many times I said ‘I’m just done’ and walked out?” he asked Terrell. They smiled knowingly at each other.
“The most memories we have together is whooping the other divisions on that field,” said Shawn pointing out to the athletic field at LaSalle. They laughed as Terrell described making a whiffle ball bat that had a super fat end. Shawn finished his sentence telling how hitting a seemingly tiny tennis ball could result in points being won or lost. That game was just one activity at LaSalle that taught them to encourage each other and trust in the other’s abilities to succeed.
“I really didn’t think I’d come back here,” Terrell said about his return to LaSalle. “But here I am.” Already working one job, Terrell saw an ad in the paper for an opening in LaSalle’s kitchen and applied. Being a parent to three children, he needed a second job. Now on LaSalle’s staff for the past month, Terrell looked out the window during a break and thought he saw Shawn in LaSalle’s back yard, his former roommate at LaSalle. Shawn recognized Terrell immediately.
On leave from the U.S. Army, Shawn returned to Albany to spend the holidays with his family and wanted to come back to LaSalle. “Everyone at LaSalle helped me out a lot and had high hopes for me,” he said. “I thought it would be nice to show the staff that all their hard work came to something,” he continued. “Hopefully the kids that see me can think that just because you’re at LaSalle, it’s not the end.”
“Before enlisting, I was working in construction and making some good money but I still hadn’t fulfilled my dream to join the military,” said Shawn. Within a week of filing paperwork necessary to enlist, he was on a plane to Georgia to begin basic training.
The rigorous commands and the pride Shawn’s brother, also a soldier, took in wanting Shawn to get through basic training gave him the ambition to persevere. Shawn never flinched when asked if he ever thought about quitting after describing the grueling exercises intended to toughen enlistees. “I never thought about giving up. I was going to finish. Period,” he said. Looking at Terrell, Shawn said that LaSalle actually helped him prepare for basic. He said “at LaSalle, being told when to go to bed, being told when to get up, being told when to shower. When it came to the military, I thought ‘Oh, I can do that! I did it at LaSalle!!’
After they left LaSalle, Shawn and Terrell hadn’t seen one another for five years. But when they got back together, they didn’t skip a beat when reconnecting, remembering some of the same experiences and a lot of good times. It wouldn’t matter if great periods of time came in between their meetings, they would always be brothers, always be friends.
When driving Shawn home the other evening, LaSalle’s Associate Executive Director Anne Moscinski said “You know, Shawn, you’re being here is like a gift” to which Shawn remarked that is really why he came back. To show staff, and youth, the impact LaSalle has had on his life.
What a wonderful story to begin the new year!!
LaSalle School is a leader in programs and services for youth and families in crisis offering a variety of programs designed to meet their needs including specialized residential placement, day service education, and alternative to detention services. The Counseling Center at LaSalle is an OMH and OASAS licensed outpatient behavioral health clinic located at LaSalle School, and currently implementing ACE treatment practices with youth and families. LaSalle is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), and affiliated with the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), and the national Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. LaSalle is a member of The New York State Coalition of 853 Schools.